Some of my greatest teachers have been the least expected.
Such as Bill, a guy I worked for back in my corporate life.
I landed in Bill’s department just a few months into my job. Although I’d been with the company almost three years, I was new to this division. My previous boss’s departure had left me the only financial person in the group. I had to go somewhere on an org chart and report to someone.
So I ended up with Bill.
I’d have placed low odds on him having much of an impact on me personally or professionally. I suspect he’d have made the same bet.
There’s a reason you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Bill was a quiet, head-down, get-your-work-done, no nonsense kind of guy. He leaned towards standoffish, was VERY serious, and seemed … boring.
But as I got to know Bill, I came to like and respect him. And I was reminded that what you see isn’t always what you get.
His standoffishness was actually shyness, and his seriousness hid a wicked sense of humor. And I discovered he had a kind of Clark Kent / Superman persona.
In the office he was mild-mannered, kind, and quiet. Not a pushover by any means, but a guy who calmly rolled with whatever was going on and played his part to make the company successful.
And then there was the other side to Bill: the competitive racecar driver and the hard-core athlete who often placed first or second in his age group in bicycle and foot races.
The guy who loved pushing himself to his physical limit.
Which is why it surprised me to learn …
… that while he’d had multiple promotions in the 20 years he’d been with the bank, he’d twice been passed over for promotion and had even been demoted once.
Yet no matter what happened, he showed up every day as the same pleasant guy who played for the team and worked hard. It paid off; when I began working for him he was a well-respected senior executive – and he loved his job.
Your ego won’t help you make good choices.
I was fascinated by the fact that, despite his fierce competitive streak, Bill had the equanimity to ride out what must have felt like serious career set-backs.
So one day I asked him, “I’m really curious. Why didn’t you leave or transfer to another division when you were demoted?”
I was blown away by his answer.
I never get too attached when things are going my way or I’m working for someone great, because it’s not going to be permanent. And since it’s not going to last forever, I make sure to appreciate the situation for however long it lasts.
And I never get too rattled when things aren’t going the way I’d hoped, because that’s not going to be permanent either.
When I’m in a situation I don’t love, I ask myself three questions:
- Can I enjoy the work and most of the people I work with?
- Can I have a positive impact?
- Do I have the opportunity to grow in some way?
If I can answer yes to all three – and I’ve always been able to – then the only reason I’d be walking away is ego.
But that’d just be shooting myself in the foot, because the situation I’m in isn’t going to last forever, nor is the one I’d be going to.
I still think WOW! when I reflect back on that conversation.
It’s a good thing I didn’t actually make the bet that Bill wouldn’t impact my life. I’d have lost big time.
The most predictable thing in life is that nothing stays the same.
So practice gratitude and appreciation for the good times.
And when things aren’t playing out the way you’d hoped, consciously choose your course of action. It’s only a matter of time before change happens again.
“Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living.” ~ Bruce Barton